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534 FAITH AND OBEDIENCE
before us; but were the secrets of a boundless future unfolded in our view—did we know as we are known —we should instantly perceive its injuriousness and its folly. Certain it is, however, that true Christianity teaches us better things. It shews us that the will of our heavenly Father is always right—that his moral law is of universal application—that it is (as it were) like its divine Author, omnipresent; following the people of God through every variation of time and circumstance—finally, that in despite of the dictates of human policy, there is to be found no permanent security—no solid happiness—in any other course of human action, than in that of unvarying and unreserved obedience.
Lastly, let ns carefully notice, and endeavour always to remember, that infidelity and rebellion, faith and obedience, respectively, are of such a nature, that they never fail to act and react—to produce and reproduce each other. Infidelity is the root of rebellion against God; and rebellion against God is ever found to be productive of yet greater infidelity. The Israelites refused to believe in the word of the Lord; and, in consequence of their unbelief, they became a disobedient, or in other words, a sinful people. And what was the effect of their sinfulness? The blindness of the eye, the hardness of the heart, and the heaviness of the ear—an infidelity so confirmed and aggravated, that they scorned their Messiah, and were totally incapacitated for the reception of his Gospel.
To reverse the picture—faith (as we have alreadyobserved) is the parent of obedience—for it is only as we believe in God and in his Son, that we can possibly feel the least disposition to obey their commandments; and truly, throughout the whole progress of
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our Christian course, nothing short of the power of faith can enable us to discard, in our practice, that carnal system of expediency, to which I have just alluded, and to walk, without deviation, in obedience to the law of God. On the other hand, obedience is the life, the strength, and the completion, of faith. Those who do the will of the Father, know of the doctrine of Christ, that it is indeed of God: John vii, 17. Every successive step we take in a course of virtuous submission to the divine will, has a sure tendency to bring us into nearer communion with our heavenly Father—to quicken our spiritual apprehension—to enlarge our religious experience—and to confirm our settlement on the immutable basis of The
TRUTH AS IT IS IN JESUS.
Having, in the Essays which are now brought to their conclusion, presented to the reader's attention an elementary sketch of the evidences which evince the truth of Christianity, and the divine origin of the Holy Scriptures; and having examined all the essential features (as I apprehend) of that system of divine love and wisdom, of which those Scriptures contain the record, I may now invite him to a brief review of the general course of my whole argument.
Let us, then, suppose that an honest inquirer after truth, is induced, for the first time in his life, to peruse the New Testament. He soon discovers that it is no common book. He finds that it abounds in wise precepts, and that it states, in a manner at once simple and authoritative, a variety of doctrines respecting both God and man, which, if true, are of infinite weight and importance. He observes more particularly, that it delineates the history and character of a perfectly virtuous person, who, unlike all other men, is described as uniting with an abject outward condition, and with a very unusual degree of humility, an authority and power indicative of a
nature essentially divine; and he reads that this person was crucified by the Jews, and that his death was appointed and accepted of the Father, as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
Struck with the extraordinary contents of this wonderful book, and humbled in the view of the mysteries which it unfolds, the first questions which present . themselves to the mind of the inquirer are these— Is this volume genuine P Is it of the antiquity to which it pretends? Were its respective parts really written, as they profess to have been, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude — i. e. by six of the apostles of Jesus Christ, and two of their companions? On these points he pursues a diligent course of investigation, and the facts which he ascertains are as follows:—that in the early part of the fourth century, (as appears from the declaration of a well-known and impartial writer), about seven eighths of the whole New Testament were, throughout Christendom, universally confessed to be genuine—that the same character was soon afterwards attributed, in the church, to the remaining part of the volume—that during the course of two hundred years before that period, innumerable quotations were made from the New Testament by the fathers, whose works in the Greek and Latin languages are still extant—that to these quotations were added, by certain ecclesiastical writers, catalogues of the books of the New Testament, harmonies of the four Gospels, and extensive commentaries—that during the second, third, and fourth centuries, several versions were made of the whole volume, into foreign languages, some of which versions are in our hands— that the genuineness of the Gospels and Epistles was
allowed by the bitterest enemies of early Christianity —lastly, that these evidences are amply confirmed by others of an internal nature—viz., first, the Hebraistic Greek in which the whole book is written; secondly, the correct allusions which it contains to the customs prevalent, at the Christian era, among both the Jews and the Romans, as well as to a variety of historical events (whether more or less obscure) which are, from other sources, known to have then taken place; and thirdly, the reciprocal incidental accordances, and general congruity, of its several independent parts.
On the ground of these various and accumulated evidences, our inquirer is at length well satisfied, that the genuineness of the professed works of the apostles and evangelists (or of nearly all of them) is far more largely attested, and, on the whole, more satisfactorily ascertained, than that which nobody ever dreams of disputing—the genuineness of the Olympics of Pindar, of the Georgics of Virgil, of the Offices of Cicero, or of the Annals of Tacitus.
Next in order comes the important question—Is the history contained in the volume thus proved to be genuine, a true history? On this subject the inquirer would have felt no temptation to entertain doubts, had not many of the events, recorded in the New Testament, been of a miraculous nature; but such being the fact, he does himself the justice of investigating, before he decides. Now, in the course of his investigation, he makes the following observations—viz., that two of the evangelists were eye-witnesses of the works of Jesus, and the other two companions of eye-witnesses—that in the four Gospels arc to be observed, at once, a variety so natural as plainly